California man pleads guilty to smuggling 1,700 animals

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California man who smuggled more than 1,700 wild animals into the United States, including 60 reptiles hidden in his clothing, pleaded guilty to federal charges on Wednesday.

Jose Manuel Perez, 30, of Oxnard, filed a petition on two counts of smuggling and wildlife trafficking charges.

Prosecutors arranged for Perez and his accomplices to use social media to smuggle animals from Mexico and Hong Kong from 2016 to February this year. , the Yucatan box turtle, the Mexican box turtle, the baby crocodile, and the Mexican bead lizard.

According to DOJ, it is illegal to import animals without a permit under the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.

Authorities said Perez paid an accomplice to transport the animal from Mexico to El Paso, Texas.

He also made about 30 trips to Mexico to pick up animals and was arrested on February 25 when he tried to enter the United States with 60 reptiles hidden in a bag of clothes, prosecutors said. Three of the reptiles died.

Officials estimate the value of the smuggled reptiles was about $739,000.

Perez fled to Tijuana in June while out on bail, but was soon caught and returned to the U.S. If sentenced on December 1, he could face up to 20 years in federal prison for each smuggling count. may face.